Coachella files trademark lawsuit against DC’s Moechella event

The organizers behind famed music festival Coachella are taking legal action against D.C.’s own Moechella event in a trademark infringement case.

Coachella’s legal team filed a lawsuit in D.C.’s federal court Wednesday in response to promotional materials sent out by Moechella organizers Justin Johnson and Kelsye Adams last month.

The lawsuit claims that “Moechella” — with its similar sounding name and stylized logo that mirrors the one used by Coachella — is damaging the festival’s brand because its association with multiple incidents such as the shooting death of a D.C. teen during an unpermitted Juneteenth event in 2022.

The filing also says that the local event has “unfairly profited” from the clothing merchandise sold using the Moechella logo.

“To be clear, Plaintiffs have no objection to Defendants’ lawful activities, including the hosting of live music and entertainment events, producing and selling merchandise, or engaging in other entertainment activities,” the lawsuit reads. “Plaintiffs’ only objection is to the Defendants’ infringing and confusing use of the term “Moechella” (or anything similar to Coachella or Chella) in connection with those activities.”

Moechella was born in 2019 in response to complaints about the go-go music played on loud speakers from the MetroPCS store in the District’s Shaw neighborhood.

Johnson started the event — which combines the local slang term “moe,” or friend, with the name of the popular Southern California music festival — to celebrate D.C.’s homegrown music genre and Black culture, as well as to protest gentrification.

Johnson has been adamant about keeping the name. Coachella’s lawsuit said that Johnson told the Washington City Paper in August 2022 that “I’m not going to stop using the name. It’s a protest.”

But Johnson’s attempts to trademark the name have fallen flat.

According to the lawsuit, Johnson filed multiple trademark applications for Moechella in 2021 for things such as clothing, book covers, political commentary and music festivals.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office denied Johnson’s application for clothing and festivals on the grounds that it would confuse the two brands, per the lawsuit.

Johnson withdrew the application last July. It was the deleted the following month.

Matthew Delaney

Matt Delaney is a digital web writer/editor who joined WTOP in 2020.

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